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U. newsletter features faculty research conducted on sabbatical

Publication seeks to foster connections between faculty members across different fields of study, admins say

In July, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty released the second edition of the Brown Sabbatical Research Newsletter, a publication showcasing research pursued by faculty members on sabbatical over the past year.

Brown is the only university with a publication of this kind, said Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12, who created the newsletter with the intention of promoting the work that faculty members have done for the public and the Brown community. “We don’t really know what our colleagues are working on here, and this newsletter can serve to make connections between faculty members who may not have known about each others’ work before,” he said.

Assistant Dean of the Faculty Joel Revill said the plan to create the newsletter followed the ongoing changes to the University’s sabbatical policy that have occured over the last few years. Previously, faculty members were eligible to take a sabbatical leave at full salary after 12 semesters at the University. The newly expanded program, however, offers sabbatical leaves to professors at three quarters of their salary after six semesters.

The idea of a sabbatical was first introduced in the United States in the 19th century and was seen as an investment not in the individual professor, but in the quality of education for the students, McLaughlin said. He pointed to the contribution of sabbatical research to the value of education as the reason behind the expanded program.

“In our assessment of faculty, research is the most important thing they are evaluated on. It’s really the contribution to their field that is of value to the students and the institution,” he said.

Associate Professor of Italian Studies and History Caroline Castiglione, who was on sabbatical during the fall 2013 semester and was featured in the second edition of the newsletter, said the university is about connecting fields and getting outside perspectives, adding that the sabbatical newsletter is a resource that allows for such collaborative work.

She also pointed to the newsletter as a means for students to learn more about and engage with their professors’ work. “You get to see your professors’ ideas in action when you read about their research,” she said.

Castiglione spent her sabbatical at the University’s Cogut Center for the Humanities researching women, families and politics in early modern Rome. Her work is one of 39 faculty members’ featured in the newsletter.

Faculty members who are granted a sabbatical are required to write a report to the Dean of the Faculty detailing their achievements during their leave, and the newsletter provides a snapshot of these reports for the community, said Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Stephen Bush, who was also featured in the newsletter. His sabbatical during the spring 2014 semester was spent finishing his book,  “Visions of Religion: Experience, Meaning and Power”.

Professor of Archaeology John Cherry took the entire 2013 calendar year for his sabbatical. During this time, he did research at the archaeological collections at the University of Cincinnati, studied societal development in Crete and conducted archaeological field work in the Caribbean.

“It would be terrible for all the interesting information in the reports to end up in a file in the dean’s office,” Cherry said, adding that having a compilation of these snapshots in a printed form “can assist in the longevity of the record of the research.”

“We were trying to dispel the public perception that a sabbatical is sort of like a vacation,” McLaughlin said.

The newsletter was distributed to the members of the Corporation, the Office of Advancement and the Admission Office. It is available online at the Dean of the Faculty’s website for anyone interested in reading it, Revill said.


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